Modelling collective foraging by means of individual behaviour rules in honey-bees
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An individual-oriented model is constructed which simulates the collective foraging behaviour of a colony of honey-bees, Apis mellifera. Each bee follows the same set of behavioural rules. Each rule consists of a set of conditions followed by the behavioural act to be performed if the conditions are fulfilled. The set of conditions comprises the state of external information available to the bee (e.g. the dancing of other bees) and internal information variables (like memorised location of a food source and homing motivation). The rules are partly observational (i.e. they capture the observable regularities between the present external information and the individual bee's behaviour), and partly involve hypothesised internal-state variables (e.g. abandoning tendency and homing motivation), because no observable (physiological) aspect has as yet been detected in the bee which correlates with changes in the internal motivation. Our aim is to obtain a set of rules that is necessary and sufficient for the generation of the collective foraging behaviour observed in real bees. We simulated an experiment performed by Seeley et al. in which a colony of honey-bees chooses between two nectar sources of different profitabilities which are switched at intervals. A good fit between observed and simulated collective forager patterns was obtained when the model included rules in which the bees (1) relied on the information acquired from previous flights to a source (e.g. profitability and time of day when the source was found), (2) used positional information obtained by attending recruitment dances and (3) did not abandon a (temporarily) deteriorated source too fast or too slowly. The significance of the following issues is discussed: the role of internal and external information, source profitability, the spatial precision of the dance communication, the ability to search for a source after the source position has been transmitted, the tendency to abandon a deteriorated source, and the concepts of scout, recruit, (un)employed forager, and foraging history.
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